Amendment 100

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Report (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 18 July 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour 6:30, 18 July 2023

My Lords, I support Amendment 106 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman.

I have been a great fan of the habitats regulations over the years; I was part of the movement that helped shape them and they have done some pretty sterling work for us, both here in this country as well as across Europe. They have one major feature at the moment: they are understood by both the development community and the environmental movement. There is a shedload of case law that surrounds them, enabling people to understand quite considerably and in detail how they operate. However, I accept that we move on; that is Brexit for you.

The regulations are now being replaced in what I regard as a rather piecemeal fashion but, nevertheless, that is what we have got. So we must make sure that all the building blocks that are being put in place to replace the habitats regulations are going to work properly; and this block, reflected in Amendment 106, is an important one. This is a risky time to be meddling with environmental assessment regimes, when we are at a crisis stage on the climate and biodiversity—but we are where we are, so let us have a look at how we can make this better.

I honestly believe that Clause 147 does not really do the job that it attempts: providing safeguards so that the EOR regulations do not result in regression from the current level of environmental protection. It uses the words

“overall level of environmental protection”.

For me, “overall” means “on the one hand, on the other hand”; it means trade-offs. We all know that trade-offs notoriously diminish levels of protection and often promise jam tomorrow that never materialises, so I am deeply suspicious of anything that looks at overall levels of environmental protection when we are in fact assessing a mechanism that will look at specific cases over time. I believe that Amendment 106 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, would provide a much more robust assurance and non-regression test by taking “overall” out of the equation, so I hope that the House will support the noble Baroness’s amendments.